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Council 'will no longer use' children's services at respite centre that 'shattered trust' of parents

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:14 10 October 2019

Newham Council says it will no longer use children's services at a respite centre in Dongola Road that was shut down in June. Picture: Luke Acton.

Newham Council says it will no longer use children's services at a respite centre in Dongola Road that was shut down in June. Picture: Luke Acton.

Luke Acton

Parents have been told the council will no longer use the children's services at a respite centre in Plaistow that was abruptly shut down this year.

But families who used the Dongola Road home for disabled children - before it was closed in late June amid allegations of abuse - hold serious concerns about the council's monitoring of such services and say they have lost faith in the local authority to provide a safe environment elsewhere.

Commissioning consultant for the council Alex Bowman, speaking at a Newham Parent Forum meeting in Beckton on Tuesday, admitted the service "has shattered everybody's trust".

He said concerns relating to staff were being dealt with and a new management team had been appointed, but the borough would not continue to use the service if it were to reopen, which was met with a smattering of applause.

The home, which supports children with autism spectrum disorders, physical and learning disabilities and complex health needs, is independently run by the council-owned Good Support Group at a site also owned by the council.

Ofsted is monitoring the service as it attempts to get up to scratch after the independent regulator suspended its registration due to "safeguarding concerns" on June 27 - two days after inspectors visited in response to a tip-off.

An Ofsted report later revealed evidence of children being slapped and aggressively shouted at, allegations of food being withheld, significant delays in reporting of serious safeguarding concerns, and other failings.

Parents at Tuesday's meeting expressed alarm that abuse only came to light because a "whistleblower" - who filmed an incident - reported it, and questioned what would have happened if that staff member had not come forward.

Mr Bowman admitted if the council doesn't witness, see records or hear allegations of abuse or safeguarding issues, it won't know.

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Some parents pointed out that their child is non-verbal and would not tell them if something had happened at the home.

In reponse to another question, Mr Bowman said he had been aware of "negative feedback" from parents and "general concerns" with the service before it was shut down, but he emphasised that action was taken immediately once allegations were made that children may be unsafe.

A monitoring report published by Ofsted last week says staff at the home are undertaking training and it is making progress towards meeting the requirements it was set.

The report states: "The training of all care staff in safeguarding children and the use of physical restraint is a key aspect of the organisation's action plan to improve the safety and quality of services provided to children."

It remains unclear if or when the home will reopen and no decision has been made regarding future use of the building.

The council says it has worked with affected families to find alternative services.

A spokesman said: "Newham Council will not be continuing to use the children's services provided by the Good Support Group at Dongola Road.

"There have previously been concerns over the quality of the provision of the Good Support Group.

"These were raised with the provider, further concerns were raised with Ofsted leading to the inspection and subsequent suspension of their registration.

"In consultation with families we have worked to find good quality alternative provision for those families using the Dongola Road service, and continue to engage with parents to understand local need and ensure whatever services are commissioned in the future are of the required type and quality."

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